A film by Arwa Damon

A story of hope and the power of the human spirit

“Seize the Summit” is the story of four young people’s thrilling journey to reach the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. Shaqayeq, Adnan, Safa and Tania are not ordinary adventurers, they are all survivors of war from different countries. Safa bares the physical and emotional scars of Syria’s war; Adnan has been bound to a wheelchair ever since he was shot at age 14; Shaqayeq was born in war-torn Afghanistan never knowing what peace looked like until she arrived in Germany;  Tania only just managed to escape Ukraine.

What brought them to take on Kilimanjaro was a profound desire to take a stand together against war and have the world hear their messages. But as they are forced to push their limits, the mountain reveals a unique lesson to each of them.


Adnan Al-Fermli
Syrian living in Spain.

Adnan was 14 years old when he was shot in the back by a sniper in Syria and has been wheelchair bound ever since. After two years in a deep depression, Adnan pulled himself out of depression by throwing himself into sports. He has completed numerous marathons and has his sights set on the Paralympics.

The message I want to give is that nothing is impossible in this world.

Tania Tverdoklib
Ukrainian living in Italy.

When the Russians started bombing, Tania’s village was among the first locations heavily targeted. She, her mother and neighbors spend more than a month sheltering underground in a tiny vegetable cellar. Seven of her friends were killed in the first months of the war. Her dorm room and all her belongings were destroyed in a direct hit. Tania managed to escape to Italy, but her mother refused to leave.

I am coming to Kilimanjaro to show that you don’t have to surrender no matter what happens in life. Life continues, and there is always space to live.

Shaqayeq Ebrahimkil
Afghan living in Germany.

Shaqayeq’s father was killed in Afghanistan before she was born. Her mother is a prominent Afghan journalist who was on the Taliban kill list. After narrowly surviving a Taliban attack on her TV station, Shaqayeq’s mother decided they had to flee their homeland. Shaqayeq, who was 13 at the time, her two older brothers, and mothers would join the hundereds of thousands making the journey on foot from Turkey to Germany.
Life in Afghanistan taught me that I should be a strong woman. I am doing this for the women and girls of Afghanistan.

We are a generation that is deep in hopelessness, we are still searching for hope. And inside that hopelessness, we are still living and love life.

Safa Loujain Al-Sinan
Syrian living in Lebanon.

Safa was 12 years old when she was horrifically burned while trying to rescue her siblings after the home they were living in in Lebanon caught fire. Safa was burning for fifteen minutes before a neighbor was able to put out the flames. She has since stood up to bullies, finished school, and is the first member of her family to attend university.

I want to show people that despite everything that happened to me, I face life head on, I am happy just like everyone else. I am a strong person.

Mostafa Salameh

The team is led by professional mountaineer, Mostafa Salameh, himself born a refugee in Kuwait to Palestinian parents

Mostafa Salameh is one of only 20 people to ever climb the Seven Summits and conquer the South Pole and the North Pole – known as the ‘Explorers Grand Slam.’ Born in Kuwait to Palestinian refugee parents, it was never Mostafa’s intention to become a climber. His mountaineering journey began in 2004 following a vivid dream with spiritual intervention.

Today Mostafa combines his sporting career with speaking roles. A large part of his time is passionately invested in inspiring and motivating children, youths and adults into realizing their own dreams.



Arwa Damon is a multi-award winning former senior international correspondent for CNN best known for her ability able to draw out nuanced human stories in the midst of war and other crisis. Among her multiple awards is an Emmy for the documentary “Return to Mosul”. She has reported throughout the Middle East, Asia, Europe, and Africa. 

After witnessing injured children in warzones fall through the gaps in access to medical care, she founded the charity INARA in 2015. It was through organizing the Kilimanjaro summit for INARA in 2022 that she recognized it was a unique opportunity to present the incredible stories of war survivors to a diverse audience. It was Arwa’s belief in the power of this documentary that led her to take the risk of leaving CNN, pursuing and self-funding the production of this project. It has long been her passion to delve into the documentary film world and translate her vast 17-year storytelling experience into something that would bring global issues to a diverse  audience in an unexpected way. This is her documentary directing debut. Arwa speaks Arabic, Turkish, English and French.


Binnur has written and directed award winning documentaries and short narrative films including “The Eye of Istanbul”, “Voices Unveiled”, “Searching for Paradise”, “Evelyn of the Desert” and “Dance of The Whirling Dervish”.  She is the Executive Producer and Creator of The Protector, the first Turkish Netflix International Originals series.  Binnur recently worked in the writers’ room of the upcoming Paramount + crime drama series The Turkish Detective, which will premiere in 2023. Her first novel Miras (Legacy) was published in Turkey in June 2022 and quickly became a bestseller. She was raised in Istanbul and earned her BFA in Drama from Carnegie-Mellon University and MFA in Film Production from the University of Southern California. She splits her time between Los Angeles and Istanbul.


Rasha Al Mubarak is a human rights advocate and supporter of displaced youth and families. She is a guest lecturer on social challenges and the issues affecting families and children in a modern world. Rasha is an arts patron, filmmaker and promoter of aspiring creatives.


Cam is an award winning ENG Camera Operator with 15 years’ experience working for headline news, current affairs, reality and magazine programming in locations throughout the world. Cam has worked with some of the world’s biggest news networks including CNN, Al Jazeera, Vice and New Zealand’s main broadcasters, TVNZ and Newshub. Telling people’s stories has been a major part of driving his career as a photojournalist.

His thoughtful, empathetic eye means Cam is trusted by the people he works with, which allows him to give unique insights into their stories from their perspectives. From closeup, intimate portraits to raw, sweeping landscapes, Cam’s filming has a unique ability to capture the spirit of people and places. He draws you in. 


Leo is a filmmaker, adventure photographer and explorer, who documents the adventure of life and explores human potential.

His documentary expeditions have led him around the world, from mountains to deserts, where Leonardo is most comfortable, and where he thrives as both an image-maker and an explorer. He focuses his visual storytelling on matters linked to nature preservation and what makes us human, advocating positive change.

He recently won an award at Amsterdam International Film Festival with his documentary “The Promise”.


Among the countless feature films Umut edited, ‘Autumn’, ‘My Father’s Wings’ and ‘Cold of Kalandar’ are the notable ones. The feature films he edited were selected to prestigious film festivals such as Toronto Film Festival, Tokyo and Rotterdam Film Festivals and the Asia Pacigic Screen Awards and received many awards. Umut has also edited numerous series that were broadcast on Fox TV and Netflix. Umut was awarded the ‘Best Editor’ title at the Istanbul Film Festival in 2016 and received the ‘Best Editing’ award from the Adana Film Festival in 2017. Umut graduated from Marmara University Fine Arts Academy’s Cinema-TV department in 2010


Feyza was born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey. She started working as a junior editor in 2015, while she was still a cinema student. Since then, for over eight years, she has been working on feature films (documentary and fiction), digital platform series and TV commercials. She is a member of KUDA (Film Editors’ Society of Turkey) since 2020 and became a board member in 2022. She is also a member of Susma Bitsin. (Speak Up to End, Turkish solidarity platform following the Me Too movement in the film industry). She dreams of a queer-feminist future.


Pablo Uranga is a director, writer and composer based in Rio de Janeiro. In the last 20 years he has developed and directed series, documentaries, tv movies, reality shows and branded content for players like Star+/Disney, NatGeo, Globo TV, Amazon, GNT, Multishow, Fox Latin America, TeleCine, Futura, Canal Brasil, Viva, Like and Tv Brasil. He has also worked for brands like Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, Nickelodeon, ELO, TIM and Oi on social media content. Trained originally as a musician, he now also crafts soundtracks that add depth and emotion to his projects.


Srdjan Kurpjel is a distinguished supervising sound editor, re-recording mixer, and accomplished composer of film and television. Born in Sarajevo in 1971, Srdjan started collaborating with composer Goran Bregovic, he contributed orchestration, programming, and arrangements to projects like “Arizona Dream” and the Palme d’Or-winning “Underground”. This collaboration extended to producing songs with acclaimed artists like Iggy Pop, Ofra Haza, Scott Walker, Cesaria Evora, and Sezen Aksu. His diverse film portfolio includes “Around the World in 80 Days”, “Tristan & Isolde”, “This Must Be the Place”, “The Disappearance of Alice Creed”, “Heartless”, “Skellig”, “Siberian Education” and “Diana”. He notable contributions to global cinema include collaborations with Paolo Sorrentine, Ridley Scott, Brian De Palma, Gabrielle Salvatore, and Nuri Bilge Ceylan. Srdjan’s partnership with director Oliver Hirshbiegel on the upcoming TV series “Unwanted”, produced by SKY, showcases his unwavering commitment to advancing the boundaries of sound.


Emmanuel started his life as a child soldier in the war-torn region of Southern Sudan in the early 1980s. He was eventually rescued by British aid worker Emma McCune and smuggled to Kenya where he overcame a huge number of struggles to become a successful and acclaimed recording artist and peace ambassador. He now lives in Toronto, Canada.


This is the result of what happens when a love of mountains collides with a war correspondent who has a charity, is willing to toss her career for a passion project, and decides to shoot a documentary in six countries in eight weeks.

In 2020 INARA, Arwa’s charity that she founded five years earlier, was organizing an expedition to Mt. Kilimanjaro that was then postponed due to COVID. By the time that INARA was reorganizing for 2022, among other tragedies and fighting around the world, the Taliban had retaken Afghanistan and the war in Ukraine had broken out.

As Arwa looked at how INARA’s expedition would be combining climbers from Syria, Ukraine, and Afghanistan, she realized it was a unique opportunity to tell the story of war and refugees against an adventure backdrop. In addition, it was a chance to tell that story through the eyes of young adults.

Arwa had long struggled with a desperate need to show the full range of complexities of the emotions of the people, especially young adults and children, that she regularly met in warzones and the refugee context. She was especially bothered by the discrepancy in the global reaction to the war in Ukraine versus other non-European wars, knowing and having witnessed how the impact of war is the same no matter where it breaks out.

“I felt in my gut that doing this documentary could have the potential to do more than all of my collective reporting. It was terrifying to leave CNN, but I’m more afraid of living with a “what if” than I am of trying something and failing. So, I decided to go all in.”

Arwa, at the time a senior international correspondent with CNN, decided it was time to part ways with the network that had been her home for 17 years. She has pledged that any proceeds made from this film will be going to charity, including but not limited to the work that INARA does.


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